When music fans first heard the music of the Cars in 1978, most people assumed the band was from England. The band’s vocal performances by Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr just sounded British. However, the band was not British, they were from Boston and just about two hundred years too late in that city to still be considered British. The band broke onto the music scene in 1978 after having spent time playing in the clubs of New England and receiving local radio airplay. The band was signed to a record deal by Elektra Records and released one of the most stunning and brilliant rock albums of the 1970s with the release of The Cars in 1978. To this day the album stands as one of rock and roll’s most royal albums.
The band The Cars featured Ric Ocasek on guitar and lead vocals. Ric Ocasek also served as the band’s chief songwriter, leader, and spokesperson for most of the time. The band The Cars also featured Benjamin Orr on lead vocals and bass guitar, Greg Hawkes on keyboards, guitars, saxophone, backing vocals, David Robinson on drums and the brilliant Elliot Easton on lead guitars.
The band the Cars followed up their 1978 album The Cars with the released of their sophomore album Candy-O in 1979. The band’s third album entitled Panorama was released in 1980. The album did not do as well as the band’s first two albums. One year later the band The Cars came roaring back with the very successful Shake It Up album that sent the band back on the charts and catapulted them into heavy rotation on MTV with the song “Shake It Up.”
In 1984, the band The Cars had become one of rock and roll’s most popular bands. However, the release of The Heartbeat City album in 1984 turned the band into a household name. The band only released one more album in the 20th-century entitled Door To Door . The record did not do well and the band broke up after its release. The album Door To Door would become the last Cars album ever released to feature all original members of the band because sadly, Benjamin Orr died in 2000.
Since the band released their last album in 1987, there have been many reissues, deluxe editions and anthologies released. The band The Cars reformed in 2011 to release one more studio album entitled Move Like This.
Editor’s Note: Today September 15th 2019, we lost founding member Ric Ocasek. We are all saddened by this tragic loss. Ric’s music will live on forever. We know that now he has gotten the chance to start jamming again with his old bandmate Benjamin Orr up in Rock and Roll Heaven. We will miss you Ric!
# 11 – Shake It Up
We start out our 11 Essential Songs by The Cars list with one of the band’s biggest hits. “Shake It Up,” was released in 1981 on the band’s Shake It Up album. It’s not one of our favorite Car songs, but it was such a big hit, it factors in as one of the band’s most essential songs from at least a commercially successful sense. And how could you not love these classic MTV videos?
# 10 – You Might Think
We feel the same way about The Cars song “You Might Think,” as we do about “Shake It Up.” It was a huge commercial hit but leaned too much on the pop side for our taste. The song was released on the band’s extremely successful album Heartbeat City in 1984.
# 9 – You’re All I’ve Got Tonight
The Cars first album simply titled The Cars will always be our favorite Cars Record. We could have filled this entire list with every track, but that would have cut out some of the band’s other essential songs from their other two great albums Candy O and Heartbeat City. “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight,” opened side two of the record. The song featured one of the band’s strongest and most exciting choruses they ever composed.
# 8 – Good Times Roll
The great opening track from the band’s spectacular debut album. The guitar lick is extraordinarily creative as is the groove that surround the entire track. How many times did you just stare at this cover while listening to the entire album in your bedroom in 1978?
# 7 – Magic
Magic was another essential Cars song released on their smash album Heatbeat City. 1984 was a magical year form classic rock and pop music. It was a year that featured essential albums like Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A, Prince’s Purple Rain, Van Halen’s 1984, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Couldn’t Stand The Weather, Metallica’s Ride The Lightning and so many more. It was a year that rock artists really lit it up.
# 6 – Since You’re Gone
Our favorite Cars songs from the Shake It Up album. The song Since Your Gone was the album’s opening track. It was released as the second single from the album. Ric Ocasek performed the lead vocals on the track.
# 5 – Let’s Go
Since The Cars first album was so brilliant, it created great anticipation for the band’s follow up album. The Cars did not disappoint their fans. The band’s second album entitled Candy O delivered another round of great rock pop songs written and recorded with an air of originality that was incredibly addicting. “Let’s Go,” was the wonderful opening track for the band’s 1979 album Candy O.
# 4 – My Best Friend’s Girl
The Cars song “My Best Friend’s Girl,” was released as the second single from the band’s debut album. The song was also placed as the second song on the album. The lead vocal on the song was performed by Ric Ocasek.
# 3 – Drive
The song “Drive,” was an outlier in the band’s catalog. Nothing else the Cars had ever recorded sounded like the song “Drive.” The Car’s Benjamin Orr delivered the vocal performance of his career on this stunning track. The song was released on the Heartbeat City album and stands as the jewel crown of that very successful record.
# 2 – Just What I Needed
The song that started it all remains one of the best Cars songs ever released. This is the one that turned heads while people asked: “who is that band?” While fans first learned about the band, many assumed it was Ric Ocasek who performed the lead vocal. This was pre-MTV days and Ric Ocasek was known as the leader of the band and its chief songwriter from all the print interviews. However, it was Benjamin Orr who sang the great lead vocals that announced the arrival of The Cars in 1978.
# 1 – Candy-O / Moving In Stereo
While songs like “Just What I Needed,” or anything from Heartbeat City tends to wind up at the top of most top 10 Cars Songs list, we think the song that defined the sound and aura of the Cars was the title track from the band’s second album entitled Candy-0. The brilliant album and title track delivered a brilliant mix of pop rock and new wave that would define the end of the 1970s and the arrival of new wave which sadly disappeared after only a handful of years. Candy-O was the Cars at their best.
Since we first published this list, we have heard from hundreds of fans that their favorite Cars song was “Moving In Stereo.” In honor of our readers we placed their favorite in a tie for first place on our 100 Essential Cars songs list.